Memorial tribute honors late Assyrian leader Ashur Eskrya

A virtual memorial tribute honored the late Assyrian leader Ashur Eskrya. (Photo by Linda Malko Bailey)

May 2021 | By Joe Snell

A virtual memorial tribute on Saturday honored the late Assyrian leader and president of the Assyrian Aid Society of Iraq (AAS-I) Ashur Eskrya.

Organized by Iraqi Christian Relief Council, the event included recorded testimonials from Eskrya’s friends, family, colleagues and delegates from around the world.

Eskrya passed away on April 9 due to complications from the coronavirus. Born in 1974, he graduated from Baghdad University and later became a civil engineer. In 2003, he joined AAS-I and became president in 2010, guiding the humanitarian nonprofit through some of its most challenging years during and after the ISIS genocide. 

“He steered our nation in the midst of incessant crisis and provided a disenfranchised people with, for all terms and purposes, a de facto government,” wrote Joseph Danavi, a board member at GISHRU – Bridge to Assyria.

Through AAS-I, Eskrya led reconstruction projects, built and maintained medical facilities, provided specialized coronavirus care and refugee relief, organized rural initiatives such as building irrigation channels, and fought for educational opportunites for Assyrian youth. In total, 27 AAS-I-funded schools provided K-12 schooling in the Assyrian language and served over 2,600 students. 

“Rabi Ashur’s spirit remains in the Assyrian schools in the Homeland as he strongly worked for their maintenance and development,” wrote Savina Dawood, President of the Etuti Institute. “At students of these schools, we will keep his memory alive for as long as we live.”

In 2016, AAS-I was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. 

“He was a consensus builder who reached across the table to find common ground,” wrote historian Alda Benjamen. 

Mikhail Benjamin, Vice President of the Nineveh Center for Research and Development, wrote that Eskrya was “one who would ‘agree to disagree’ when it was possible for all to accept and understand that our main goal must be protection of the existence of the Assyrian nation.”

Eskrya traveled the world to advocate for Assyrians in Iraq. In one example as ISIS descended on the Nineveh Plain, he traveled to the Canadian capital city of Ottawa to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Foreign Minister John Baird, and the Canadian Cabinet to tell the story of what the Assyrian people were confronting.

“He also came with solutions,” wrote former director of policy to Canada’s Foreign Minister. “He moved mountains through sheer force of will, connected easily with anyone who encountered him and gave me the privilege of learning more about ancient and contemporary Assyrian life.”

In another example in 2015, Eskrya oversaw the AAS-I distribution of humanitarian aid to Assyrian villages funded by the Estonian government. 

“He became my guide to Iraqi society, my teacher and my friend,” wrote Estonian journalist, independent researcher and humanitarian Hille Hanso.

Eskrya is survived by his wife, son, and two daughters.

Rewatch the global memorial tribute here:

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